Bringing Rugby & Reading to life at Colmore School
We aim to help create positive change for our local communities through charitable contributions, and investing in partnerships and programmes that benefit those who are otherwise underserved and overlooked.
During our three-year partnership with Coventry Rugby Club we’ve helped children all across the West Midlands to gain access to sports, nutrition and education through various initiatives, such as Project:500 and Rugby & Reading.
So, when Colmore School (based in Kings Heath in Birmingham) asked for our help in transforming their old hall into a new “Reading for Pleasure Zone” we jumped at the chance to not only make a donation, but to get Coventry Rugby involved too!
Reading for pleasure
Colmore School serves a diverse community and, according to head teacher Antony Bradshaw, pupils from less privileged backgrounds can be exposed to 45 million fewer words than those from more affluent ones. Whilst the school had implemented some initiatives to improve reading, it wanted to create an environment where teachers can read to their students in a dedicated area and enable their imaginations to run wild.
Due to the age and layout of the existing building, the school was struggling to make this possible so it decided to transform its existing hall into a dedicated reading zone. From initial concepts to finishing the build took two years due to delays due to COVID-19, but by early June 2022 it was finally ready!
Coming together for launch
On the launch day, pupils from the school, representatives from Charter Savings Bank, Coventry Rugby players and even local MP Steve McCabe attended the launch of the area at an official opening ceremony, complete with ribbon cutting, tea and cake.
For many of the pupils it was the first time they had seen the area, and they were very impressed and excited.
Steve has a personal connection to the school, with both of his children previously attending as pupils as he himself volunteered as a Governor. He delivered a very impressive speech before cutting the ribbon, highlighting how important areas such as this were to the children.
He said: “Language is the basis of all learning. The more you use words the easier it is to tell people what you really think and mean. It’s also really enjoyable to just relax and lose yourself in the simple pleasure of reading a book. What you’re doing here at Colmore is fantastic, and I really want to thank Charter Savings Bank and Coventry Rugby Club for what you’ve done.”
The area not only had hundreds of books, new tables, comfortable chairs and a book vending machine, but it had fantastic paintings on the walls, and a mural over the archway, depicting scenes from well-known children’s books. The artwork was carried out by HD Wraps, a specialist firm who design and install wraps in schools, academies and hospitals across the UK. Not only did they design the mural at a very reasonable price, but they worked 25 hours straight, including through the night, to get it ready for launch.
Rugby & Reading
The Rugby & Reading programme was set up by the Coventry Rugby Team to inspire children to pick up a book and stay healthy at the same time. The players were hugely supportive of the new area at Colmore, and as our partners they were happy to attend on the day, with players reading books to groups of children (complete with animal sound effects), handing out goodie bags, and even having an impromptu session with a rugby ball!
Dan Lewis, a fly half with a successful playing career at Coventry Rugby, attended the opening, and spoke about the importance of the Rugby & Reading initiative, our partnership, and what the new area means to the children, saying: “As rugby players as opposed to just their teachers telling them to read, we want to encourage the message that sport and education massively go together. I think having rugby players actually saying ‘reading is really important, and education is really important’ is really refreshing to the kids.”
Funding in education
Levels of daily reading among children and young people have been in sharp decline: just 25.8% of children said they read daily in their free time in 2019, the lowest level the National Literacy Trust recorded since it surveyed children in 2005.*
The education sector is also one that’s been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. Not only did children miss months and months of vital education, but they also missed interacting with each other, and their teachers. For children with special educational needs, it was even more of an isolating, trying time.
Schools are struggling to obtain the funding they so badly need for areas such as this. And the current cost of living crisis isn’t helping. Antony Bradshaw estimates the cost of heating and lighting the school has increased by over £70k, and it’s only just breaking even.
He was clearly incredibly grateful for our support, and recognised the impact of the rugby players’ involvement, saying: “Our ambition is for children to read millions of words by the time they leave here. It’s a unique opportunity certainly after the last two years where we've had very few visitors in, we've really seen the power of having people coming in to motivate, and particularly around the area of reading. I guess you wouldn't traditionally think that rugby players would be associated with reading, but they did such a lovely job of coming in and exciting and engaging them.”
All in all, the day was a great success. It was a fantastic example of partnerships coming together for the good of the community, and more importantly, a creation of a visually inspirational, dedicated library which all pupils will enjoy for years to come.
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